The Black River Adventure into the Wildcat where the East & West Forks meet.

The Proper Function

The Black River

Your soul will grow deep like The Black River as its beauty twists through the White Mountains of Arizona. 114 miles in length, the waters continue to meet the White River (near Fort Apache) then becomes absorbed by the Salt River – a major tributary of the Gila River. The Black River received its name by James Ohio Pattie who explored this area in 1826.

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East & West Forks

The East and West Forks of the Black River are two of the finest flywaters in the state of Arizona. The East Fork courses along forest road 276, therefore you will often run into crowds and high pressure waters. If you seek more solitude, then adventure over to the West Fork which you can access from Thompson Trail. The meadows near the West Fork are celestial and  my soul is simply bound to this area. While it is only catch and release, it is home to the Apache Brown Trout, which was delisted from the endangered list in 1975. If you’re a small stream angler, then both forks will provide you with plenty of pools and great fishing. Water levels can drop during the late summer, so adventure further down the canyon and visit the Wildcat!

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Introducing The Wildcat

Most haven’t heard about the Wildcat and it’s what makes this flycasting journey an official Proper Function. Like old friends, the Wildcat is where the East and West Forks meet to form the Black River. Your soul will be rewarded by the solitude that is aligned with tall pines, firs and cottonwoods. At 7,500′ elevation, the Black River delivers generous cold water flycasting. While I have seen many wild horses on the White River, this trip became an official Proper Function when I was greeted by a Wild Horse just 30 yards down from where I was casting.

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Get Your Greer On!

At Wildcat you can fish smallmouth bass, brown and rainbow trout. Best fishing is early spring and late fall. Avoid the monsoon season (late summer) as the water becomes fast and dirty secondary to the prior fire. Here are my recommendations:

  • Rods : 5 weight, 7 1/2 with a floating line
  • Leader: 3x to 5x, 7′
  • Chest high waders
  • Hopper/Dropper : Hopper with a Pheasant Tail, Prince or Hare’s Ear
  • Streamers: Woolly Buggers

 

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Head South past Big Lake for approximately 12 miles – follow the signs to the East Fork of the Black River. You will cross a bridge and reach an area called Buffalo Crossing, which is on the East Fork of the Black River. There are several campgrounds also located in the area if you plan to camp. From Buffalo crossing, you will find a small path that traverses the East Fork which leads South. Continue down this path for about 1 mile until you reach a gated fence. Go through the gate, if the gate is closed then close it. If it is open, leave it open as this barrier helps guide wildlife grazing. As you continue through the fence you will reach Wildcat.

This Proper Function
(Approximate Data)
F
Party Cloudy
2,315ftElevation 13.7hrsDistance From You
LocationGreer
State, RegionArizona,Northeast
Coordinates33.740939°, -109.365656°
DirectionsView on Google Maps
DifficultyModerate
WaterBring
DogsYes
HistoricNo

TPF

Dan is an explorer for The Outbound and founder of The Proper Function, an outdoor editorial. He is passionate about exploration and can’t stay put for more than a week.